GAFCON II, Nairobi October 21-26 2013
Gospel and Culture Mini Conference
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The delegates of the mini conference thank God for the strong and clear gospel and theological centre expressed in the GAFCON Statement and Jerusalem Declaration of 2008. Having received the clear summary of the gospel in the paper What is the Gospel? produced by the London 2012 GAFCON Leaders’ Meeting, we affirm the following:
1. Urgent Need. The need to ‘re-evangelise’ the West is urgent, but we note that the West is not monochrome but textured, with many subcultures and multi-ethnic communities due to migration. Neither its false gods nor Western materialistic atheism deliver, and the West is therefore in desperate need of the gospel of salvation through Christ to escape the coming judgment of God.
2. Responsibility. Evangelism is the Father’s plan (Luke 24:47), Jesus’ command (Luke 24:48) and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8), and is therefore the responsibility of all believers (not only clergy and leaders). We therefore call upon church leaders to better equip believers in the West to ‘out-live, out-think and out-die’ the culture in which we live. We believe that, just as in the East African Revival, lay people have a critical role in the re-evangelisation of our nations and must be empowered and released. We call upon pastors and teachers to work more diligently at this equipping and training of all believers (Ephesians 4).
3. Repentant Reform. Many believers in the West have bought into a gospel of cheap grace, meaning we love little because (in our impoverished understanding) we have been forgiven little. There is a need for deep repentance and a renewed passion for the lost. We must repent in particular of the slumber and preoccupation with material comforts that pervades so many of our churches. We must reform our churches by the faithful proclamation of God’s word to renew confidence in the gospel as the power of God for salvation and to equip the saints for the work of mission.
4. The Word of God. The word of God is critical in this task. When the word of God is proclaimed and the gospel made clear, lives are transformed by the agency of the Spirit of God. This authoritative word stands over and challenges every cultural context in every age.
5. The Church. The word of God, the gospel, gives rise to the church as well as shaping it. We believe in the primacy of the local church gathering, rather than the wider denomination and organisations, for equipping believers for every good work, including mission and evangelism. In light of Western culture’s individualism, and its ensuing broken families and fractured communities, our evangelistic mandate demands that local churches should be families (the household of God) that practically express God’s welcome, Christian hospitality, faith, hope and love. It is within the context of these kinds of churches that those who are born again of God can build their lives on God’s word and grow to full maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
6. Partnership. Partnership between churches in the West and the Global South is essential given both the size of the task and the wisdom and experience available from churches in the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Such partnership will be mutual as churches in the West help the Global South resist the onslaught of Western secular values, which are infecting every culture through globalisation. Such partnership is a visible expression of our unity in the gospel. We call upon all church leaders not to partner with those who deny or subvert the gospel and the way of life it demands, recognising that such compromise seriously damages our witness to the world. Some ways of partnering include:
a. Training. The church in the West needs to share its rich blessing of well-trained teachers to better equip the Global South.
b. Diaspora. Partnering to reach communities from the Global South now present in West and using these communities as a bridgehead to reach the host cultures.
c. Other denominations. Partnering with other churches in other denominations that share our theological convictions, both in the West and Global South.
7. Structures. Recognising unity and truth are not guaranteed by structures alone, we call upon the GAFCON leadership, holding firmly to the unchanging gospel (Galatians 1) given to us in God’s written word, to work to renew structures, including diocesan and provincial barriers, to facilitate and promote mission across the world. We must never allow man-made structures to prevent gospel initiatives and partnership.
8. Compelling Apologetics. We need to deconstruct the new and pervasive polytheism and disordered values of the West. Human hearts are curved in on themselves and hunger after false gods. We need to name those false gods truly in the light of scripture (whilst listening attentively and critically to the self-understanding of those who worship those gods), and demonstrate creatively, appropriately, in public and in private, that the true gospel alone meets real human need and alone offers forgiveness of sins.
9. Godly Lives. It is imperative that Christians in the West live in the light with distinctive Christ-like lives marked by deep repentance, thankfulness and joy. We must model the love of Christ and keep raising up a new generation of well-equipped and discipled Christians of all ages. We must learn to tell our stories of the transforming work of Christ.
10.Courage. Many in the West have lost confidence and become fearful in the face of militant secularism and materialism. Courage like that of the apostles in Acts 4 will be needed to face a hostile culture. We must expect to suffer and be misunderstood for the cause of Christ, and so repent of our spiritual cowardice and pray for boldness to stand for our Lord in the power of his Spirit.
11.Prayer. We must repent of our prayer-less-ness and our over-dependence on strategies, resources and our own wisdom. Prayer expresses our dependence on God that he alone opens blind eyes and enlightens darkened minds. We call upon all Christians in the West to commit to sustained prayer for the re-evangelisation of our culture, and ask the churches of the Global South to pray for the Western churches in this.
12. Opportunity. Recognising these many difficulties, we believe this is a great day for the gospel, because the gospel remains the power of God for the salvation of all who believe, from every nation. We look forward expectantly, in the power of the Spirit, to what the God who can do immeasurably more than we might ask or imagine will do amongst us.